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Books Reviewed Gilgamesh the King by Ludmila Zeman | 978-0887764370
The Revenge of Ishtar by Ludmila Zeman | 978-0887764363
The Last Quest of Gilgamesh by Ludmila Zeman | 978-0887763809
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Grade Level K - 3

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who read this story often, wrote, “Gilgamesh is an immensity.”

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the oldest and most powerful stories that has survived until our day. It is older than Homer’s masterpieces, The Odyssey and The Iliad, dating back to the 3rd millennium B.C. It is the story of a king, part man/part god, who searches for immortality. Along the way he finds friendship and eventually comes to a new understanding of himself and his place in the world.

Three Excellent Books

These three books are lavishly illustrated and faithful to the original story:

  • Gilgamesh the King, the first book in this series, tells the story of how Gilgamesh and Enkidu become friends.
  • The Revenge of Ishtar, the second book in this excellent series, tells us how Enkidu’s and Gilgamesh’s friendship has grown and how Ishtar takes her revenge on them for killing the Bull of Heaven.
  • The Last Quest of Gilgamesh completes the story. Gilgamesh goes on his quest to find immortality and eventually returns to his home.

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Planning to Use These Books?

Here are some additional resources for your students.


Sniffy (professor)

Sniffy Definitions from Gilgamesh the King

Sniffy is a hamster...a talking hamster who likes words. A hamster wordsmith, I guess you could call him. Read along (or just listen) as Sniffy defines and/or illustrates the following words from the reading.

Cruel

I had an Uncle we called Cruel Drool. Now you may not know this but hamsters drool almost as well as some big dogs. So Uncle Cruel Drool used to make us watch him drool and it used to make me feel sick, but he enjoyed making me feel sick because—well—he was cruel. We called his wife Hurtin' Merton because she was sadistic. She liked to make us unhappy and afraid. Once she made all of us watch Animal Planet—the show about—about—about snakes eating hamsters. She was cruel too! I had nightmares for years. I hate snakes—and cats—and birds of prey—and speedy black dogs too . . .

Sniffy (crazy)

Mercy

"Mercy, mercy, mercy," my Momma used to say when I did something really stupid, like the time I tried to stuff two tangerines in my cheek pockets and then I talked liked this: heidieii diei kdkhhi hdudiek dkdjeidj jfdiils. But that really doesn't have anything do with the "mercy" in your book. That "mercy" is when people are kind to you when they don't have to be. I remember one time I stuffed my cheeks with sunflower seeds (after my Momma told me not to) until I looked like a teddy bear with two watermelons in his mouth. Then my nose started to itch and then it twitched and then it itched some more and finally—ahhh, ahhh, ahhh—AHHHH CHOOOOO!!! Seeds exploded out of my mouth and scattered everywhere. My Momma could have just made me clean them up by myself—but she didn't. You know what she did? She helped me. I love my Momma.

Despair

That's it. It's hopeless. I'm not even going to think about it anymore. I thought for sure it would happen, but now I know it won't. My despair is complete, I know there is no chance, I have lost all hope. What's this about you ask? It was there last night and I was going to get it tonight—I have figured out how to get out of my cage and open the freezer side of the refrigerator—but it doesn't matter anymore because I saw Mr. Draeger eat the last of that chocolate chip ice cream. It's gone. Nothing left. Not even an empty carton to lick. I'm so depressed. Next time he puts his hand in my cage I'm going to chomp his little pinky until he screams like a wild baboon. I will show no mercy.

Sniffy (one foot)

Discussion Questions: Gilgamesh the King

  • Why didn’t power and wealth make Gilgamesh happy?
  • Why do you think Gilgamesh wanted to be remembered forever?
  • Why do think Enkidu decides to leave the animals and fight Gilgamesh?
  • Why do you think Enkidu chooses to save Gilgamesh?
  • Why do they become friends after their battle?
  • Why does Gilgamesh change from being a bad king to a good one?

Sniffy (professor)

Sniffy Definitions from The Revenge of Ishtar

Revenge

Boy oh boy oh boy is that Ishtar mean. Revenge, that's all she wants. Gilgamesh won't marry her—she tries to destroy Uruk with the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill the bull and she wants revenge again, so she harms Enkidu by making him sick and Gilgamesh by making him sad. She is full of vengeance—very vindictive. I don't like her, no, no, no I don't, I don't, I don't! Maybe I'll take revenge on her—what could I do?—hmmmmmm—she's way bigger than me—hmmmm—she's way stronger than me—hmmmmmm—well? Maybe I'll just eat some ice cream and go to bed. Good night.

Sniffy (crazy)

Magnificent

My Uncle Mike, Magnificent Mike we call him, has a magnificent hamster cage. You should see it! It's as big as a car. The outside is painted red, yellow and blue. Inside he has four splendid hamster wheels: one made of gold, one of silver, one of glass and the other of chocolate—he has to buy a new chocolate one every week. The cage has about 40 rooms with beautiful paths lined with jelly beans and all manner of hard candies. It has three elevators, one escalator and even an electric train. The walls are covered with gorgeous, inspiring hamster paintings. There's one of my great-great-great grandmother smacking a cat on the nose. The whole cage is carpeted and there are even 12 hamster bathrooms and you should see the dining room! The table seats 50! What magnificent meals we've had there! It's very impressive. The next time you get a chance would you tell Mr. Draeger to build a cage like that for me? Thanks.

Vast

So you want to know what 'vast' is do you? Think big, very big. Huge! My cage is not vast, in fact, it's tiny. But go to the top of a mountain and look at everything around you. Now that is vast. Space is vast. It's immense. It's enormous. I mean it's humongous. It goes on for millions and millions and trillions and trillions and googles and googles of miles. I don't know if it ever stops it's so gigantic. I get dizzy just thinking about it—must be my vast intelligence. What do you think?

Sniffy (on back)

Fury

Sniffy Says: "Furry? That's easy. I'm a furry hamster. You should touch me. I feel so soft and cuddily—don't squeeze though, I'll bite."
Mr. Draeger Says: "Sniffy. The word is not 'furry,' it's 'fury.'"
Sniffy Says: "What!? You're correcting me in front of all these students! Never, never correct me in front of students or you're going to have to find yourself a new hamster wordsmith, buddy boy! Oh me, oh my, am I angry! I'm going to bounce around this cage with such rage and passion you'll never get any sleep. Correcting me? Are you saying I'm not furry? You wait bub, I'll show you a furry fury so intense you'll—"
Mr. Draeger Says: "Sniffy? Remember who feeds you."
Sniffy Says: "Yeeees. Food, yes I suppose one does need food. Nevermind."


Discussion Questions: The Revenge of Ishtar

  • Why do you think Gilgamesh has become such a good King?
  • Why are Gilgamesh and Enkidu such good friends?
  • What does it mean to be a good friend?
  • Why are Enkidu and Gilgamesh so brave?
  • What does it mean to be brave?
  • Why do you think Ishtar becomes so angry?
  • Why does Gilgamesh want to go on a quest for immortality?

Sniffy (professor)

Sniffy Definitions for The Last Quest of Gilgamesh

quest

You may not know this but I'm a quester. I like to go on quests, to search for things, to seek out new places or new knowledge—to boldly go where no hamster has gone before! Sometimes, unfortunately, my quests get me in trouble. Last week I went on a quest to the back arbor to see what was there. I ventured across Mr. Draeger's vast backyard and then I scurried up the wisteria vines—they were thick— and when I reached the top of the arbor I came face to face with a rat—now this rat looked at me with furious eyes—and he was bigger than me and without warning he grabbed my stubby tail and tossed me off the arbor. You probably heard my screams. Luckily I had my hamster double-o-seven parachute on (this comes in handy when you're on quests) and landed softly in the grass—beside a snake! I bolted under the garden fence, across the patio into the house and back to my cage. That was enough questing for me.

immortality

You may not believe me, but I am one of the immortals, one of the gods to be exact. The great thing about being an immortal is that you get to have immortality—you don't have to die. You see my real name is not Sniffy, but Sneezeus (it rhymes with Zeus, one of the Greek gods). You may think that gods like Ishtar and Enlil don't need pets, but they do, however a god can't have a mortal pet so they have pets that are gods too. Unfortunately gods, even though they live forever, have short tempers, particularly Ishtar (as you know). When she caught me building a nest in her silk curtains she banished me to Mr. Draeger's house and this cage. At least I'll live forever—assuming the dog doesn't get me.

Sniffy (laughing)

defiantly

Should I talk now? Okay. Ahhhh, hi. Actually, I'm not Sniffy. Sniffy defiantly told Mr. Draeger he didn't want to do this word—said he needed a vacation—told Mr. Draeger that he works him too hard. My name's Bouncy, I live in the next cage. I'm a hamster too. Anyway, Sniffy can be very defiant. He doesn't like to be told what to do. Once I saw him stand on his back legs, raise and shake his front paw at Mr. Draeger and say, 'I refuse to run in that wheel. Run, run, run, run and I never get anywhere. That's it!' I think he likes to defy Mr. Draeger just for the fun of it, but he better watch out because he's just a little too bold sometimes. That's probably why I live in the best cage—I'm just a nicer hamster than Sniffy—no offense intended.

Sniffy (relaxing)

paradise

Ahhh, paradise. You know what that is? It's a big, soft pile of cotton balls, lots of tunnels with beautiful plants, a nice hamster swimming pool heated to a comfortable 84 degrees and lots of food: sunflower seeds, carrots, pecans, walnuts and plenty of good water to drink from a beautiful waterfall. That would be utopia, heaven on earth, perfect bliss and happiness. Instead, however, I live in a wire cage and I have to drink my water from steel tube. I'm calling the President!


Discussion Questions: The Last Quest of Gilgamesh

  • Why do you think Gilgamesh is afraid of death?
  • Why do you think Gilgamesh is so brave and determined?
  • Why do you think the Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh not to seek for what he cannot have?
  • Why isn’t Gilgamesh able to stay awake during Utnapishtim’s story?
  • What do you think Gilgamesh learned from his quest?
  • Did you like this story? Why or why not?

Quotes about The Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is an immensity.— Rainer Maria Rilke

Here is the Epic of death-dread, arisen from that which is immemorial amongst men . . .— Rainer Maria Rilke

The story is familiar to us not only because it anticipates Noah’s story in the book of Genesis, but because it is the story of life, the story of destruction and renewal. — Arthur A. Brown


Mr. Draeger's Adventures

Mr. Draeger's Adventures: The Gas Station of Immortality

Hello Fellow Mortals,

I started reading about Gilgamesh the other night while I was in bed and when I got to the place where Gilgamesh decided to search for immortality I was enthralled. I threw the book down and decided that I too would search for immortality. What have I been doing for 47 years? Eating? Sleeping? Reading? What a waste! If I had spent that time looking for the secret to escape death—why I might be immortal now.

I woke up my wife. “Dear,” I said. “Good-bye, I’m going to go on a quest, a quest for immortality.”

“I think the car needs gas,” she said sleepily. “Good night.” Then she rolled over and went to sleep.

“Hmmmmm,” I mused out loud. “Gas?” Will I find immortality on some road? A freeway, perhaps? Or maybe at the gas station? Maybe there’s a secret gas pump that dispenses immortality—I’ll bet it’s the Supreme pump. Maybe that’s why gas prices are going up so high. Did she know something she wasn’t telling me? “Um, Dear?” I shook her. “Are you awake?”

“I am now,” she said groggily.

“Why do I need gas to search for immortality?”

“Why wouldn’t you?” she replied matter-of-factly. “Good night.”

Why wouldn’t I indeed? I grabbed my wallet (immortality is probably expensive) and my car keys and headed out the door. Once in my car I drove toward the nearest gas station, but before I could get there the car ran out of gas. Well, no one said the search for immortality would be easy. I started to walk and walk and walk. I began to sweat. It wasn’t late at night but it was dark and up ahead I saw two figures on the sidewalk. One had short hair, one had long hair and they were both big. When I tried to pass them the woman moved in front of me.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she said. She stood as tall as I am (I’m 6’2″) and weighed well over 200 pounds. Her husband was the same size.

“I’m just trying to get to the gas station.”

“Without a car?” her husband said. “I don’t think so.”

“Okay, okay. I’m searching for immortality. I want to escape death and I won’t stop until I find an answer. Now let me pass or else I’ll kick you, I’ll bite you, I’ll scream for the police—I’ll fight both of you behemoths until you let me pass!”

“The immortality gas station? Yes, we know it well,” the woman said. “But to get there you’ll have to pass through—” she paused “—The Mall—and,” she added gravely, “you cannot buy anything. If you do you will never find the gas station of immortality.”

“I’ll do it,” I said.

“Turn back now,” the man said. “No one survives The Mall—you will pass your 12 favorite stores.”

The candy store?”

“Yes!” the woman answered.

The cookie store?”

“Yes!” the man answered.

“The movie theatres and the toy stores?”

“Yes!” the woman answered.

“And—” I hesitated and swallowed deeply, “a bookstore?”

“Three of them!” they yelled at the same time.

I ran past them toward The Mall. “Good luck,” they yelled. Then I heard them say, “He’s two parts weird and one part foolish.”

The Mall loomed in the distance, its huge parking lot filled with cars, SUV’s and trucks. There seemed to be no brighter place in the neighborhood and as I got closer I could hear the throng of adults and children happily rushing from store to store, carrying bags of clothes, toys and computer games. I raced through the parking lot and then—into The Mall. The store windows were lined with every conceivable temptation: televisions, DVD players, clothes, cool shoes—but none of these tempted me until—I smelled it—chocolate chip cookies—freshly baked—and a special deal—two for the price of one. I swept past them like a swift river, but the ordeal had only just begun. I made it past the candy store, the computer store and the first bookstore—and the second bookstore—but at the third bookstore, in the window, in plain view for all to see, there it was—a set, not one book, not two books, but four books: The Hobbit and the three books of The Lord of the Rings series — on sale —35% off — illustrated — hardbacks. My mind reeled, I reached for my wallet—my credit cards seemed to be speaking to me and then I remembered the words of Enkidu: “Do or die!” I forged ahead.

Now all I had to do was pass a few department stores and then—I was free, into the parking lot on the other side of the mall. It was then that I saw her—a former student of mine (I’ve taught a lot over the years and have many, many former students). As she was getting into a car I rushed at her (maybe she could give me a ride to the gas station of immortality) — she pulled the car door shut just as I got there.

“Let me talk to you, Susan,” I yelled as I tugged at the door. “It’s me, Mr. Draeger,” I yelled.

“Is not!” she said.

“Is too!”

“Is not!” she yelled. “Look at yourself in the mirror.” I did. I didn’t look like me. My hair was wet and tangled, my shirt was soaked. “What do you want?” she asked.

“I’m looking for the gas station of immortality.”

“Why? You should be home with your wife and son. You should be enjoying a good meal with them — eating some ice cream—talking and laughing.”

“I must have immortality! I must escape death.”

“I know someone who can take you where you want to go but it means you’ll have to pass through— through —”

“Where?” I asked.

“The Freeway of Death.”

“During rush hour?”

“Yes! A fate worse than death—do you see that taxi-driver over there?”

“Yes.”

“He will take you.”

I ran to the taxi—leaped in the backseat and yelled, “Take me to the gas station of immortality.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” he said. “Slow down. I must tell you about The Freeway of Death before we venture on to it. Once on it we can never stop—it’s go, go, go all the time and fast, fast, fast—we’ll need 12 gallons of gas for our trip. Secondly, you must never, never drop anything out of the window—if you do—we’ll get a ticket and be fined. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I replied. The Freeway of Death was like a computer game that moves too fast. The cars whizzed by us and cut in front of us. Some drivers honked their horns, some drivers yelled at one another. The gas gage went lower and lower—9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 gallons left and still we did not see the Gas Station of Immortality. Then up ahead we saw Road Construction. Quickly we had to switch lanes or come to a halt and never make it to our destination. We swerved past as the gallons diminished— 2, 1—. “Where is it?” I asked.

“It’s the next exit,” but just then the car ran out of gas. As it slowed we coasted onto the exit, then finally, I had to get out and push the car into the gas station.

It didn’t look like a gas station of immortality—you must know what those look like—ask your mom or dad. It looked old. The gas pumps were not computerized, the paint on them was chipped and faded and the office was small: it had one desk and behind it sat one old man. His hair was gray, his face wrinkled and he leaned back in his old wooden chair holding a torn and tattered paperback book in one hand and a hot cup of tea in the other. He looked at me over his reading glasses with a peculiar, but relaxed expression.

“Well,” he said, “teaching must be a stressful job. You look like you just got slobbered on by a big dog and you look worried.”

“I am,” I said. “I’m going to die and I don’t want to so I’ve come to ask you how to get immortality—you don’t look like you’re immortal.”

“And what do think an immortal looks like?”

“I don’t know—younger—handsomer—stronger—”

“Too bad you didn’t say wiser. I’ve learned some things with the time I’ve had—the important things. You want immortality? It’s not yours to have—get over it. You’re going to die—we all are, except me that is, but I’m an exception. The important things are family, contentment, memories and peace. Where were you before you began your quest?”

“I was in bed reading.”

“Next to your wife.”

“Yes.”

“You kissed your son goodnight?”

“Yes.”

“You had a good meal together with your family before you went to bed?”

“Yes.”

“And you were reading a good book?”

“Yes.”

“You left that to search for immortality? You’re one crazy dude!”

I thought for a moment and suddenly I missed my wife and my son and my dog and my fish and my hermit crabs and my hamster (Sniffy) and the creaky door and the weeds in the backyard and the dishes—I missed them all.

Then I ran and I ran and I ran. I ran down the Freeway of Death, I ran through the Mall and I ran down the lonely dark street past my car that had run out of gas. I ran until I reached my front door. When I burst in my wife was setting the table. There was a loaf of freshly made garlic bread, a salad overflowing with tomatoes and avocados and a large pizza fresh out of the oven.

“You’re just in time,” she said. “Did you find what you were looking for.”

“Yes, yes I did,” I said.

We sat down to eat, gave thanks for the meal and just before I was about to bite into my first piece of pizza my son said, “What could be better than this, Dad?”

“Not a thing,” I said. “Not a thing.”

Regards,

Mr. Draeger

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